Setting The Water Down

A glass of water doesn’t weigh much. Its not strenuous to even hold it for a little while. But what if you had to hold that glass all day, all week, for months? That glass would make your hand cramp up. You might even drop it, spilling the water all over the floor, making one hell of a mess. Stress and anxiety is like holding a glass of water. Its not so bad for a bit, but after awhile it can be crushing and painful.

Darlene is finished with treatment. They have declared her to be cancer free and she is in the recovery stage of this strange chapter of her life. Recovery from chemo, surgery, and radiation can take up to 18 months and some side effects will stay with her forever possibly. Since the surgeon had to take out lymph nodes in her arm, she was told she was not going to have full mobility ever again. Well this was just never going to be a good thing to say to Darlene. Telling her she can’t do something, well, you might as well shove your head in the sand to begin with because shes about to prove you wrong. Darlene already gained back full mobility of her arm just 4 months after surgery. Shes been swimming, taking yoga classes, taking zumba classes, going bowling, and going for walks with both of our dogs. She looks fantastic and she says that her smell is coming back (watch out for puppy farts!) so she enjoys food much more now. She is not merely surviving, shes THRIVING.

So, we are finally setting down our glass of water. Sometimes I find myself picking it back up, worrying about anything and everything. But  I look at my mom’s happy demeanor and fight to kick major ass, and I promptly chuck that glass out the window.

Throughout this whole thing the one lesson (out of many) that has rung true is that life is too short to be doing something you hate. I became inspired and decided to dive in, full time, to dedicate myself to my artwork and writing. I’ve become a freelance writer and blogger. I’ve actually used this blog as examples of my work to land clients. During the past 10 months I’ve learned new coping skills, such as working on my art non-stop. This has turned into an extremely positive experience for me. There is something magical about taking adversity and using it to do amazing things.

My dad recently passed away in June and when people found out they reached out to me to see if I was alright. I had a good friend, Justice, message me on Facebook and he said something so amazing to me, it really stuck. He said, “Dani, you are still here, and you are amazing. Go do amazing things because you are still here.”

That’s right, we ARE still here and we can choose to take uncertainty and adversity and use that against ourselves or it can be our ladder to greatness. So we are choosing success and greatness by using our deeper understanding of the world and this existence as a stepping stone to our dreams. We are letting our struggles become our foundation to lift us up instead of crushing us down. And there’s really no secret to it. All you need to do is set down your goddamned glass of water and step up onto the newly poured foundation and start building the life you imagine.

See you in the sunshine, my friends.

Silver Linings

Its been a few months since I last posted here. Our lives are crazier than ever with job changes, surgery and physical therapy (PT). Darlene had her surgery on April 1st, 2016. It went very well and they preformed a double mastectomy as planned and took out 9 lymph nodes that they thought might look funny. They found out that the tumor shrunk way down and that it appears there MIGHT have been cancer in the lymph nodes but the chemo killed all the cancer and those are the nodes they took out anyway. The doctor said that is great news and shows a very positive prognosis. They are really being very aggressive with her treatment because they know her body can handle being pushed to the limit and they want to overkill any possible trace of malignant cells.

She started radiation last week and will be going for 28 treatments. I found out that when you go for radiation, it actually keeps working in your body for months afterwards. Working for a long time is good, because it means its a very aggressive treatment and they are really throwing the kitchen sink at this issue but it also means that side effects can last for potentially longer than a year.

I feel that Darlene has had a tough past 7 months not only because she was going through chemo and surgery but also because she hasn’t really had a break to heal at all before she moved onto the next treatment. She is sleeping 10+ hours a night with ample breaks in the middle of the day. Her body needs the rest and we can’t wait until all of this is over.

She asked her radiation tech when and if she can say she had cancer. She wanted to know about the difference between remission and a cure. Breast cancer is curable and MANY women are successful with their treatments. There are some cancers that are not curable, like blood cancer and liver cancer. When people who go though treatments with a cancer that is not curable, they can go into ‘remission’ when the cancer stops growing, or goes away all together. That means the treatment was successful. There is still a chance that it can start growing again, but breast cancer is different. If they get the whole tumor, if it did not spread into the chest wall and further, then they consider you cured after all of your treatments. Now, some breast cancers are genetic and those types tend to keep coming back especially if they are the kind that “feed” on your hormones. My mom doesn’t have that type of cancer. She has and aggressive type but if she makes it without it coming back in two years, the chance of it coming back at all is VERY limited. So the tech said that she can say she had cancer the day of her last radiation treatment.

We are all pretty DONE with this cancer thing. All we want to do is get back to our lives. Darlene is already planning trips with friends in the future when shes back to her regular energy level. Shes got plans to do more volunteer work and we want to adopt another puppy when things settle down.

Overall, everything is going well. We are still facing radiation side effects but we can finally feel the light at the end of the tunnel shining on our faces.

The future is bright and shiny and we are just getting started in this brave new world; post cancer.

 

Absent Minded

I want to start off by saying that my lack of entries on this blog does not denote an epic tragedy. Darlene is doing extremely well and I have some very good news to share. But before I talk about what has happened these past couple of months with the cancer, I need to clear the air a bit before I can feel comfortable writing any more entries.

Sometimes, even though I do not intend to always, I feel that this blog is more about me dealing with the fact my best friend is going though the toughest thing shes ever gone through before. I have mentioned in past posts that I live with anxiety disorder. These past months, well, how I like to describe it is that I “fell off the bandwagon”. The anxiety got its meaty hooks in me again and made it difficult to function on a normal human level. Now, I have been through this before and I know I can get through it again. It can take weeks for me to come back to a healthier mental status. So, at the tail end of February, I am starting to feel a bit better. Not to say that some days are harder than others and that sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and wish it all away… Huh… sounds a bit like something a chemo patient would say, doesn’t it?

Every time I go though periods like this I learn more about myself and more about this bully inside me. Anxiety is a bully. He likes to bring up the most terrible images, thoughts, ideas into my head because he knows that its going to push my buttons. I learned that anxiety is a liar, masquerading as the truth, darkening my perspective.

FEAR=False Evidence Appearing Real.

I’d like to really delve into what living with anxiety (and no I don’t like to use the term suffering because FUCK anxiety) at some point, possibly on another blog, but for now this will do.

As for Darlene, things have been good overall. A few things have happened since the last entry:

  1. The scans I spoke about came back good, the tumor shrunk way down. YAY!
  2. Darlene developed neuropathy in her hands from the AC drug. Neuropathy is nerve damage which causes numbness and tingling pain. It has since gone away which is great news. Unfortunately during the time she had the neuropathy, the oncologist was ready to put her on another chemo drug Taxol. Taxol causes neuropothy almost 80% of the time so that wasn’t going to be a good choice for her. So, they gave her a week off so they could figure out what drug to put her on next and that’s when the tumor started growing again. This is about the time when I completely lost my shit and “fell off the bandwagon”. Thankfully, the next week they put her on Docitaxol (not sure if I’m spelling that right…) at 80% of the dose to see if they could avoid the neuropathy.
  3. Since then, Darlene has had 3 treatments of the Docitaxol and its been shrinking the tumor again! They even said that the tumor has holes in it, like Swiss cheese, which means its not only shrinking but dying from the inside out, like a rotten fruit with a bad spot in the middle. This is great news overall.
  4. A not so great thing happened with her surgeon.  Now, Darlene decided in the beginning of all this that she wanted a double mastectomy to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in the other breast and because the idea of living with only one breast was not something she was willing to do. For those of you who don’t know, if you elect to have only one breast removed then you have to wear a prosthetic breast to look symmetrical. Sure sounds uncomfortable to me. Anyway, her surgeon was on board at first but as we went along, to make a long story short, the surgeon decided that she was not going to do anything Darlene wanted and for reasons that were just not backed up with substantial evidence. The surgeon became very aggressive and alarming, saying that there would need to be emergency surgery, and wound care would be involved and why do more chemo because it really has no benefit anyway. We were absolutely shocked at what she said. It was completely unprofessional and hypocritical.  When Darlene tried to ask more questions to understand why all of a sudden the surgeon would say this, the surgeon started lying about her ultrasound of the tumor and started evading answers. It was super weird and totally out of the twilight zone. Anyway, we found an amazing NEW surgeon at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital in Lebanon, NH. This new doctor said she would defiantly be removing both breasts and that Darlene’s chemo treatment was going very well and that she should continue with it until it was done.

Left: Picture of me and my mom Darlene. Right: Picture of my Husband Brian and Darlene at a chemo treatment.

Chemo is a bitch and this type is totally kicking Darlene’s butt because its a VERY tough regimen on her body but, she only has one treatment left and then she is off to surgery on April 1st! We are very excited that we have the surgery booked because it finally seems like we can move on from these months of crappy chemo.

Its almost springtime, and the light stays in the sky longer each day, and the sun gets warmer as its angle changes. When the Earth wakes up from her wintertime nap it renews hope inside. Hope that even though the world can be cold, icy, devoid of warmth and sunlight, that eventually the thaw comes and what was hard before becomes bearable. The unrelenting frigid air gives way to snow that blankets the landscape. That very snow that puts the Earth to sleep, gives it the water and nutrients to rise again, through the mud and bloom more beautifully than ever before. I know we will bloom from this. I can feel the warmth of hope on my face and I know that through this struggle, we have learned some valuable lessons. Our snow is melting now, and our seeds are starting to take root in the unknowable but bright future.

On A Beautiful Winter Morning

Today is the first day of winter. Mona (the dog) and I awoke to a frost covered lawn and a purple winter sky. We have not had any snow in New Hampshire yet. One of my favorite times of year is when it is cold and frosty but it hasn’t snowed yet. The trees are bare and their naked limbs turn into a mass of grey. The grass turns a rusty brown and the sky is frequented by splashes of hot pink and lavender. Jack Frost settles over the landscape like tea leaves settling in the bottom of a mug.

It is a special time of the year, Christmas is on its way! It is Darlene’s favorite time of year. She wakes us up as early as we can tolerate it to open gifts and have Christmas pancakes. This particular week is also special because Darlene finished her last dose of AC chemo. Last week is when she technically had the last dose but this week is when she starts to feel better from the chemo again. We are 25% of the way through her treatment plan! All of her doctors said that this chunk of chemo was going to be the roughest to get through so we are excited and cautiously optimistic about her next med: Taxol.

I am fortunate to have this time of unemployment come now. I will be able to take Dee to all of her treatments, YAY! There is always a silver lining.

In other news, in other AMAZING news, Darlene’s tumor has shrunk dramatically. She started out with a tumor that was 4.5cm. With only three AC treatments, it has shrunk to 1cm. Her doctor said this was astounding and he cannot begin to explain to us how good that is. We are overjoyed! She just had an MRI last Friday to check her scans and see how the treatment is going. It still makes me nervous to get a test right before Christmas but, I suppose this time is just as good as any. Tomorrow she will talk to her surgeon and go over the scans. I’m sure another post will follow.

Toodles and Merry Christmas!

C Me Roar

Bob Dylan was a wise man. He wrote about change and not giving into authority that tries to bring you down. He sang about the human condition and what it feels like to bleed. I was listening to his song “The Times They Are A Changing” and it resonated with me. It reminded me of one simple truth: one of the most consistent forces in the universe is change.

This past Tuesday I was laid off from my job that I had worked at for 2 and 1/2 years. I looked at my boss straight in his eyes, with tears glittering in my own and said; “Boy, when it rains it pours, doesn’t it?” my teeth were clenched with every word.

Darlene has been a goddess warrior through this. We are 75% of the way through the first part of chemo. She goes for her last AC chemo treatment on Monday. Each time she goes, her blood work has been excellent. The doctors are stunned that her blood appears to be of a healthy patient. She and I were discussing this phenomenon  over text and Darlene speculated why she was dealing with the treatment so well. I told her; “That’s because you are a beast and won’t take shit from anything”. I responded with a quippy “RAWR!!!!” and she replied, “c me roar”. That is a powerful statement. See me roar. See me roar from a cancer patient. Fuck yeah.

I took my mom’s advice and I’m gonna let the world listen to my roar. I felt like the Man was bringing me down. It felt like I was being thrown to the ground, kicked in the ribs, dirt on my face, and spit in my eyes. Lets break this down; my mom has breast cancer, my husband and I are the primary people taking care of her, we are a young couple just starting our lives, trying to save for a house, its Christmas time, and they decide to lay me off. SERIOUSLY?!

It took me time to calm down; about an hour. Then I stopped crying. I stood back up, brushed the dirt off and stood tall. Change happens for a reason. There was a reason the universe threw this curve ball at me. We quickly realized that I am eligible for unemployment for the next six months. Its really a godsend, the chance to stay at home with my mom while she heals. I couldn’t imagine a better use of my time. During this time I am also going to consider what I REALLY want to do. The job I am leaving has no upward mobility for me, and I’m not all that interested in the industry. I will have the time to find how to turn my creative passions into a career and do a bit of soul searching.

So I’m not going to be unhappy about this. I’m going to focus on the amazing opportunity I have right now. I’m going to try yoga. I’m going to take a Reiki class. I’m going to write more and paint more. I’m finally going to organize the house the way I want it. I’m going to spend time to help my mom feel the best she can possibly feel.

See me roar, I’m just getting started.

 

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

Ah, this is the time of year when all the themed posts come out about the holidays; and I shall be one of the many that comments on the festivities. This year is a bit different. As Thanksgiving approaches, I think about what the holiday means. Unfortunately the holiday has turned into a consumerism wasteland similar to Christmas; but not all has been lost. People do find the time to gather with family and pull out old traditions that provide feelings of comfort and nostalgia. Holidays are our way of creating consistency in an inconsistent world.

Traditionally, Thanksgiving was our way of remembering the beginning of the United States relationship with the Native Americans. We remember how they helped the radical Protestants (who fled England to escape religious persecution) survive their first New England winter. They shared their harvest with the Plymouth colonists out of kindness. It is amazing to think that the Natives reacted to the new white settlers with gentility rather than fear and disgust. Maybe if we today, reacted to the unknown with kindness and positive vibes, world peace could be a reachable goal.

With all of this in mind, my thoughts turn to how contemporary society deals with the idea of gratitude. I do not believe that everyone really understands what it means to be grateful. If they did, they would be much calmer, and happier. I know it sounds cheesy, but we really do have so much to be thankful for. It makes me mad when people think that the only appropriate time to count their blessings is when Thanksgiving rolls around. Their convoluted idea of expressing gratitude on their Facebook or Twitter posts upsets me. Gratitude is such a strong and powerful idea; and when you pretend you actually think about gratitude by posting about how #blessed you are with your iPhone and cars, you are literally an insult to the human condition.  How dare you dismiss the things in life that really matter. People matter. Thinking matters. Loving Matters. Creating matters. Learning matters.

Thanksgiving is a time for grounding. Shed the superficial pleasures we place so much value on, and instead displace that value onto ideas that really matter. Lift your eyes from the glow of your smartphone, and discover the glow in the eyes of the people you love. Earnestly listen to people you care about before their words disappear. Cherish the love of your family and let that love reflect upon you and magnify into others; starting a fire of kindness like a magnifying glass to the sun.

Sometimes I feel a burning rage rumble inside when I see people who are so foolish to curse the blessings they have. I feel myself starting to become angry but then I let it go and remind myself that I no longer have to be angry like those people. I can make the choice to be grateful for what I have, including the ability to see the things I have been blessed with.

 

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

The most important thing to remember is that even though it is wonderful to be reminded to be thankful this time of year, we must carry that spirit into everyday.

Harps, Pomegranates, and Good Vibes

IMG_0963I’ve spoken many times about the importance of positive thinking. I truly believe that if you actively focus on keeping a positive point of view, miracles can happen. Surrounding yourself with a positive environment full of uplifting energy is something everyone should do. Now if you had me read this two months ago I might have given you a skeptical look and asked what hippie wrote this. Oh how we wax and wain through our lives… I digress; a positive mental attitude is key, especially during dark times.  It took my mom’s diagnosis to really hammer that idea into my head. I realized that to give her the best possible chance of living through this, (and the best chance to keep my mental stability) we need to keep the good vibes flowing.

Yesterday Dee had her second round of chemotherapy. She had her blood taken to test her white blood cell, red blood cell and platelet count. They also tested her kidney and liver function as well as her overall nutrition. Her tests came back so good that the doctors said if they didn’t know she was getting chemotherapy, they wouldn’t be able to tell from her blood. In other words, her blood came back absolutely perfect; it appeared as if she was a non-cancer healthy patient. This is crucial because it means that she can continue with chemo treatments. If her counts go too low they need to wait for her body to catch up.

For those of you who might be confused as to why I am so excited about blood levels, let me explain. Chemo drugs are designed to eliminate rapidly dividing cells. Cancer cells are rapidly dividing cells, but so are many others in your body such as; hair cells, skin cells, stomach lining cells, red and white blood cells, and many more. Unfortunately they have not found a way to just target the cancer cells so chemo is very hard on your body. This is where all the nasty side effects come from. If chemo lowers your blood counts too much it can be very dangerous and the doctors will not continue treatment until your counts are back up. It can take awhile for your body to recover. So, Dee started treatment as a healthy person with fantastic blood counts. She went through her first round and came out on the other side with PERFECT counts, just like they were before she started chemo. The doctors say that low blood counts and fatigue is accumulative with chemo. She could very well come in the next time with lowered counts, BUT she is starting the 2nd round with an A+ so if she is knocked down, it is not as hard of a hit.

There are many reasons why she did so well. We can only really speculate, but here is what we focused on:

  1. An excellent diet with little to no processed food. We also made sure she got a good variety of protein.
  2. Exercise. She walked for about an average of 15 min a day along with various chores around the house.
  3. Water Intake. She is drinking a MINIMUM of 80 oz of water a day. The doctors say this is one of the most important things to keep up on because it combats dehydration, nausea and it helps the chemo get through your body quicker.
  4. Positive energy. We made sure to be in a positive mindset without being over confident about the situation. She also kept busy to focus on good activities.

Studies show that keeping busy (to a degree) and having a positive outlook on life actually changes your brain chemistry. Now I am not a scientist or a doctor but I really feel that the universe is telling me that our good vibes are helping tremendously.

During this round of chemo a harp player, Deluna, came to play for us. It was nothing short of magical. Only art can transform a sterile environment into an escape. It made the time pass smoothly. I sat next to Darlene eating my pomegranate, admiring the rich deep red of the fruit, listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber on the harp. A feeling of content and gratitude swept over me, like it has been ever since I accepted positive thinking into my life. I feel we are more in tune to the universe now, and as I listen, I hear it tell me to look to the light.

Ain’t That A Kick In The Head

“My head keeps spinning
I go to sleep and keep grinning
If this is just the beginning,
My life is gonna be beautiful” –Ain’t That A Kick In The Head by: Dean Martin

Its been almost two weeks since Darlene’s first chemo treatment. We strive to be positive and upbeat. It can be hard when the ugly thoughts creep in.

I turn to music for most of my inspiration; whether I am happy or sad. I’ve also been back on a Fallout New Vegas kick. In the video game Fallout the only music leftover in the post-apocalyptic world is 1950’s western tunes. There is a radio- Mojave Radio Station- that plays these tunes. One of them is the song I quoted above. It is poking fun at the story line in the beginning of the game when the main character gets shot in the head. Dark, I know. (Dark can be your friend too if you let it.) I couldn’t shake the lyrics above when thinking about this two weeks. Its saying that even though things are crazy now, I know that they will be better soon. Its the effort you put into keeping that positive mental attitude that counts.

I’ve been psyching myself up for the new game Fallout 4 that came out just this past week. Unfortunately Amazon is being slow AF delivering the game (that my amazing husband pre-ordered for my birthday) so I’ve been trying to finish Fallout New Vegas. Needless to say, I’ve been listening to a bunch of ’50s music.

Video games are so important to me. I credit my brother Aric, for instilling my love of all things nerdy. We had quite the nasty fights over who got to use to family computer to play Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds. I grew up around fighting bad guys, leveling up, and finishing quests. I was raised on a Mario Kart 64 track and in the kingdom of Hyrule. I found the value of sniper rifles and high perches when battling my brother and his friends in Halo (And Aric if you are reading this, I still HATE the Flood!). After almost 17 years of gaming, I’ve begun to look at problems differently. In games, there is a clear quest, or problem to solve. There are many resources to lean on: weapons, ammo, HP potions, maps, hints from NPCs, your own personal skill set, and various clues hidden in the game’s landscape. Its pretty simple, figure out what your quest is, follow the steps, and use every resource you’ve got. Games today tend to be much more complicated than in the past; sometimes there are steps within a quest.

I like to think of our journey with breast cancer as an expansion pack to the main part of the game.  In Fallout New Vegas, there is an expansion pack called “Old World Blues”. Its not a part of the main story line and you can skip it without really missing any big part of the main quest. It does have a bunch of history to the game franchise in it, and it is a GREAT and challenging part of the game. It took me a LOOONG time to finish that expansion pack because there were so many quests involved. Breast cancer is sort of like that. It is not our whole life, but it is a pretty big expansion pack with lots of side quests. Expansion Pack: “When A Good Woman Goes To War” with multiple side quests including: “Chemo Rounds 1-16”, “Battle on The Nausea Front”, and MANY MANY MORE!!!

If you take a problem and break it down into steps like a quest, it becomes manageable. Instead of thinking of cancer as this big looming thing that you can’t even see, look at it like a video game. Cancer is the Boss in the game, the big bad guy you must defeat. But before you can fight the big bad guy, you must start at the first step and work from there. Working step-by-step has allowed me to beat numerous video games that have literally taken me HUNDREDS of hours but I DID beat it. The take away here is to tackle problems like a gamer would. Check your pip-boy for the maps, take some Stimpacks, and equip your best weapons.

There is a website called Superbetter. It is a program designed to help you tackle your problems in a way a gamer would think. It is an awesome app and I totally encourage you to check it out. Click here to go to Superbetter

With my gamer mentality in mind, I have helped Darlene through the first two weeks into chemotherapy. We have tackled unexpected challenges such as: weird food cravings and severe muscle spasms. We leaned on our resources and took it step, by step. In this game we are still on the first quest: AC chemo. The second will be Taxol. Little by little, we are reaching that final boss fight. I leave you with this quote:

“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.”

Round One *Ding Ding

Yesterday was the first round of chemo for Darlene. I have to preface this whole experience with the fact that we had no idea what to expect, and nothing to compare this to. We were nervous, but confident knowing that we are actively taking steps to get rid of the cancer.

I kept randomly making little yelling and screaming sounds under my breath. Darlene looked at me like I was insane. I asked her, “Do you know what those sounds are?” She shook her head. “Its the sound of your cancer cells dying because you are kicking their ass with the chemo meds.” I said. She smiled, and then burst out laughing. I’m always trying to make her laugh and be positive during this whole process. I honestly believe, in the core of my being, that positive mental attitudes and humor can conquer all. And that I something I have to actively remind myself of, to ward off my own anxiety.

The appointment was at 9:30 am. Before we went in, we took our dog Mona out for a nice long walk and ate a good breakfast. We drove to the appointment listening to some sweet acoustic reggae music. (The artist’s name is Skillenjah; you should really check him out.) In the office, they lead us to a big room called Pod 1. The perimeter of the pod was lined with comfy recliners and side tables. Along the wall, there were TVs with arms attached to the wall along with all the other medical tubes and machines that go ping. We sat in the corner next to the bathroom and got settled in with a good game of Rummy 500. (It is a card game where you play hands until someone reaches the score 500. Think gin rummy with a twist.) It definitely is calming to have something to focus on while you are waiting for meds. Her nurse was named Kathi. She was super nice and very upbeat and positive! The way she talked about chemo and the whole process was very comforting. She spoke of the side effects like it was normal and just something you have to get through. Just. Something. You. Get. Through. We need to be reminded of that more often.

Kathi accessed her port by sterilizing the area first, and then poking the bump with a small needle attached to a long tube. Mom said it didn’t hurt at all because of the numbing cream they gave her to put on 45 mins before the appointment. Darlene got her pre-meds before they gave her the chemo. They gave her steroids, anti-anxiety, and anti-nausea meds. They let that settle in for about 20 minutes and came back with the chemo. The nurses came over all dressed in blue scrub gowns, double gloved and with masks on. Its pretty freaky to think that the chemicals that they are putting into my mom’s veins are so dangerous to healthy people that they have to take extra precautions, like doubling up on gloves. The first type of chemo that they gave her looked exactly like a tube of red Hawaiian Punch. They said that is the one that makes her pee orange! The second type of chemo was completely clear; it looked like water. After she got all of the meds they flushed out her port with saline. They took out the needle from her port and then we were out! The whole process from check in to check out was from 9:30am to 1:00pm. It felt pretty quick overall.

  
When we got home we let Mona out to pee and then watched Bourne Identity. After about two hours of being home, she was starting to get tired. I could tell she was not quite herself but she was still okay. We made a healthy smoothie with lots of fruit and veggies and protein powder. Once it was time for bed, she started to go to sleep and woke up scared. She called me upstairs because she had a nightmare. It spooked her really good because she was pretty hesitant to go back to sleep. I told her that sometimes the meds can make you extra confused and weird when you are sleeping. I also slept in her room to make her feel comforted that I was right there. She slept through the rest of the night, only waking up a few times to double check that I was there. Overall, it went alright.

Honestly I am kind of waiting for the nausea shoe to drop, so to speak. This morning she felt a bit funky but the meds helped. I think the scariest part of this whole thing is the unknown of what her side effects are. Hopefully as treatment progresses, we will start to learn how she reacts. As always, we are taking it a day at a time.

I’m hoping to do some more posts about food we are making and any tips and tricks we learn along the way. If you have any questions about our journey please put them in the comments!

Love and good vibes, Dani

There Is A Difference Between Knowing The Path And Walking It

Neo from The Matrix.

At this point if you know me or have read some of my other posts, you might be able to guess that I am a bonafide sci-fi nerd. From The Walking Dead to Doctor Who and everything in between. Science fiction has always been close to my heart ever since I was a little girl. I find comfort in these stories during tough times because even though the characters are faced with crazy situations that might seem insurmountable, they overcome their demons and press on. I mean, these guys are dealing with some crazy shit like time travel paradoxes, aliens taking over the planet, video games that happen to be real life alien warfare, arguing with your future AND past self at the SAME TIME. It gets very weird, very fast. Kind of like our life right now…

I tend to see connections between stories I read and watch to real life. So when  Darlene got her port yesterday, I kept thinking of The Matrix.

If you are not familiar with The Matrix, let me give you a bit of background: In the story, reality as we know it is not actually the REAL reality. It is a very complicated computer simulation which all humans are plugged into. In reality, humans are farmed for their energy by evil robots that have taken over the earth and kept in weird jelly pods and plugged in by these port things all over their body. In the story the main character, Neo, is woken up from this fake reality to help fight the good fight against the robots with a group of rebels. Now I know that is a SUPER basic plot overview, (the story is much more complicated than that) but that is all you need to know to understand the references in this post.

A port is when they make an incision in your chest (or arm or anywhere they can get to a main vein) and the doctor inserts a small tube into your vein that is connected directly to your heart. It is attached to a reservoir which the doctors can then draw blood from and administer your chemotherapy treatments. Basically, it is a relatively quick outpatient procedure that saves your veins from being poked many times during the months of treatments and tests.

This is a diagram of what a port looks like and how it is hooked up. Again, some people have ports in different places, Mom just happened to get a chest port.

So I did not think to google chest ports before she went for the procedure so I was just going by my own mental picture, which was something like this:

That is some real cyber punk shiz huh?

I was thinking: this is so cool, shes going to have this bad ass port thing in her that they plug her into for treatments, and shes going to look like a character from the Matrix! Well, I was pretty disappointed when she got out of recovery and it looked like this:

This is a picture of her port. Its that bump under her skin!

This is a picture of her port. Its that bump under her skin!

WHAT?! You mean its not this metal implant that looks like its from the future?! Wait… how do they even get to the port? I did some googling and I asked the surgeon. He said that they numb the skin and then they insert a needle into the port (which is the bump under her skin). I am still not sure how they find exactly where to poke the bump but I guess we will find out Monday.

The procedure for her port did not take very long. The whole process from check in to check out was about 3 hours. She says it is very sore when she bends down (which is probably from all the swelling and irritation of having a foreign object in your body). They said that in about a week it should be all healed up.

I am glad to be moving along with treatment. I keep reminding myself that every step along the way is a step closer to making mom better. People keep telling us that the 5 years after treatment will be the best 5 of our lives because we will be riding the wave of success. I keep looking to that shining light of hope and reminding myself that we too, are bad ass heroes who WILL make it through these tough times. To quote The Matrix; there is a difference between knowing the path and walking it. We were looking down this path of MONTHS of treatments and not being able to see the end because it is so long. But as Morpheus says, walking the path is different than knowing it because with every little step, it gets better and we get closer to our goal.